Wednesday, January 2, 2008


Into the Blogosphere! (Multiple Personality Disorder Edition)

With all due regard to Sufjan Stevens and his four recorded versions of his song “Chicago”… (Check out three of ‘em on The Avalanche album) here is my lunging stab at overextending myself from the first tick of the New Year.

Like a Harlem Globetrotter with a Guinness-record fetish, I aim to keep three blogs spinning about in cyberspace this year, not because anyone told me I should, not because I have to, but because in my compartmentalized, creative way (talk about multiple personalities), I want to.

This all basically started with a colleague I respect asking me “Do you blog?”

What do they say – hindsight is like French kissing the funhouse mirror? Well, no, actually I just said that. But I think you know what I mean.

What I mean is, when I answered her, I thought I knew what she was asking, and I was confident in my answer. And now, looking back, I see completely missed the boat. Like, John-Cusack’s-girlfriend-in-Say-Anything missed the boat.

Her question came about in this context: as a former newspaper reporter and columnist taking a plunge into grad school and fiction writing, I still get the Jonesing, now and again, for journalistic work, be it a magazine or newspaper column, a radio essay, or the stray profile or other assignment. Late last year I sent an e-mail to that effect to a few editors and well-placed contacts of mine, basically saying, if they knew of any freelance gigs that might be a fit, give me a shout. This colleague wrote back, saying she would keep me in mind, and concluded by asking, “Do you blog?”

I responded, essentially, yeah, of course. (Affecting the tone of a Nick Hornby character, probably John Cusack in High Fidelity, since I’m mentioning it.) I referred her to the blog I’d been keeping on My Space, where for a year or so I’d been posting excerpts from stories, or updates on life, and lately had been teasing friends and readers with news and outtakes related to the publication of my first nonfiction book, Building the Green Machine. At that point, the book had really taken over everything: the blog, the MySpace page, my life. (My wife’s, too. And still she manages to get excited about it. God, how I love her.) And while I’m sure that’s a legitimate use of blog space, it doesn’t quite fit the usual mode of blogger discourse, mainly, as “web log,” a sort-of tap into the keg of the writer’s mind which spews forth in a sometimes forceful, sometimes freeform spray about all the dirty corners and bright-lit byways traveled in life.

In retrospect, I see that I wasn’t blogging, not really. My aims were far too direct, not that that’s a sin in the blogosphere. But where my colleague was concerned – holding up my blog as an example of how I write, and how I think, and what things move me to write, get my socks going up and down, so to speak – my efforts on MySpace weren’t really hitting the mark. Compared to what I tackle daily in my journals – random pop culture, news, rants, books, movies, parenthood, life as a grad student, running, etc. – I was cutting off the reader from what I’m truly about.

Make no mistake, I was about and am about Building the Green Machine a lot of the time. And that’s unavoidable. As Sarah Keeney, eminently awesome marketing expert at my publisher, Savas Beatie, writes in her latest blog, first you birth the book (the long process of researching and writing it, revising it, publishing it), then you give it legs to walk (the winding trail of publicity, getting the word out and the book out into readers’ hands). So that’s an ongoing focus of mine. But it sure isn’t the only one.

So I started thinking about what more I could bring to blogging. I probably shied away because, like, there are only so many hours in the day to devote to sleep, eating, parenting, exercise, classes, and my God, writing, that what kind of sustained effort would I manage to mount when there are only so many pages in me every 24 hours, and I already have plans for them! And my writing mind is so attuned that anytime I consider an idea that may be blogworthy, it usually gets blown up into a column or essay or … gasp… something longer and meant for printed publication. And there’s a whole jungle gym of rules about what you post and don’t post if you aim to eventually see it in print, and want to get paid to boot.

But what I discovered is that a lot of what I’m already thinking about – in the microbe-germ-paramecium-barely-fertilized-egg stage, anyway – could be churned out here to qualify me as a card-carrying participant in the bustling Blogiverse. It’s practically a requirement nowadays, isn’t it? Like hanging the high-def TV in the family room (though I resist, and cling to my dust-attracting 1996 RCA 19” model). And thus, my ambition to juggle three blogs at once.

That’s more an accident of affiliations, actually. I mean, I’ve got my MySpace blog, and the obscene number of friends I’ve made there, mostly due to the drum corps connection. So I want to keep them posted on that front. But I’ve also got the official book site and blog, and the professional obligation to keep that humming, and to “interact” as the tab indicates. And now my publisher, Ted Savas, and dear Sarah are blogging about the industry, and I’m trying to keep up with that and cheer them on every now and again, which I do through my Google BlogSpot account, and that profile just seemed so blank and lonely, so diligent former staff writer that I am, I want to fill that space, too.

And so there is my goal and my sickness and my obsession, to somehow maintain relevance, or at least entertainment value, in three corners of the Blogiverse. I notice other writers doing it, and doing it personally, like Sam Weller (MySpace and The Bradbury Chronicles site) and John McNally (MySpace and BlogSpot… what else, John?). My question: what do you do? How do you keep up?

In any case, should be a fun experiment. And if the characters in my fiction start to squirm and eye me pityingly, looking more or less blank and lonely as the pages I should be devoting to them dwindle, I only hope I come to my senses and call a hasty retreat. But for now, it’s:


INTO THE BLOGOSPHERE! (Building the Green Machine)


1 comment:

Charles said...

My man, if all of your blogs will be as well-put and lively as this one, I say keep it up!

Charles in Atlanta